Road workers attend to an overturned semi truck.
Enlarge / A truck on Route 93 in Canton, MA, rolled over on Dec. 7, 2020.

Motorized vehicle visitors crashes killed 36,096 folks in 2019, in accordance with new data from the Nationwide Freeway Site visitors Security Administration (NHTSA). That is a 2 % decline from the 2018 determine and a continuation of a decades-long pattern towards safer roads.

Site visitors fatalities peaked within the late Nineteen Seventies, with greater than 50,000 folks dying per yr. Since then, annual deaths have typically been trending downwards.

Progress on highway security noticed a quick reversal between 2014 and 2016, when fatalities rose from 32,744 to 37,806. However since then, the determine has declined three years in a row—although it is nonetheless not under the file lows of the early 2010s.

Progress has been much more dramatic whenever you think about America’s rising inhabitants and miles traveled. Fatalities per 100 million miles of driving fell from 3.35 in 1975 to 1.10 in 2019.

As I wrote a few years in the past, numerous components have contributed to the long-term pattern towards safer roads, together with vehicles engineered for higher crash-worthiness, rising use of seat belts and airbags, and stricter enforcement of drunk-driving legal guidelines. Within the Nineteen Seventies, 60 % of visitors fatalities in the US concerned alcohol use. In 2019, it was lower than 30 %.

Pedestrians and cyclists in danger

Whereas the information is nice total, the most recent NHTSA report does spotlight a couple of areas of concern. The NHTSA says that 3,142 folks died on account of distracted driving—a ten % improve over the 2018 determine of two,858. Nonetheless, it isn’t clear if there is a long-term pattern right here. For instance, 3,263 deaths in 2015 have been attributed to distracted driving.

During the last decade, rural highways have gotten safer whereas city streets have gotten extra harmful. Rural freeway deaths fell from 18,089 in 2010 to 16,340 in 2019 as rural miles traveled stayed flat. In distinction, city roadway deaths elevated by 34 % as city miles traveled elevated solely 15 %.

That is partly as a result of considerably extra pedestrians and cyclists have died on city roadways. “Pedestrian fatalities in city areas elevated by 62 % since 2010,” NHTSA says, whereas they fell by 5 % in rural areas. Equally, city bicycle owner fatalities rose by 49 % between 2010 and 2019, whereas declining by nearly 5 % in rural areas.

This will likely partly replicate the rising reputation of bicycle commuting and walkable city neighborhoods—NHTSA’s report does not estimate how the numbers of city pedestrians and cyclists on the highway have modified since 2010.

In any occasion, there’s motive to hope that higher automated emergency braking know-how might assist scale back deaths amongst pedestrians and bicyclists within the coming years. Many vehicles right this moment have AEB options, however many aren’t refined sufficient to detect pedestrians and bicyclists. A brand new era of AEB systems equipped with lidar sensors might vastly enhance these programs over the following 5 years.

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